There’s A Reason The Foster And Adoptive Journey Isn’t Perfect.

As much as we wish we were called into a journey that was easy, problem free, and had a lot less pit falls, we’re just not. It’s far from perfect and there’s a reason for this.

broken cup on wooden background

I’m typing this from 30,000 feet above the earth as I fly to Denver, Colorado for a one-day conference for foster and adoptive parents, called Spotlight. I was there last year, and it was amazing. Such beautiful people with hearts for the vulnerable children in their city. It’s quite amazing to see. I should say that I’m a bit on cloud 9 after last weekend at The Refresh Conference in Seattle. It’s been a week, and I can’t stop thinking about all we experienced. We absolutely loved our time in the Pacific Northwest with all of the amazing people we call friends and family. We feel this way every year after the conference ends. Yes, it’s that amazing.

Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about something I shared in one of the sessions I taught last weekend on Saturday morning. It was during the early bird breakfast they offered for foster and adoptive dads. My friend Andrew invited me to share some thoughts with the guys and I accepted. He told me, “It doesn’t have to be anything lengthy. It’s not like a breakout session or keynote. Just write some thoughts down and share with the guys.” Done! I thought. Now, what I would love to tell you was that I woke up on Saturday morning in my hotel room, arose from my bed, gave thanks for another day of life, and spent time refreshing myself (no pun intended) on the 3 full pages of thoughts I had written in the days preceding.

Who am I kidding? You and I both know that’s not what happened. Those of you who know me well are probably shaking your head as you read this. Actually, it went something like this…sat down the night before, pulled out my notebook, with the intention of writing a well thought out, clearly formed, message, that would inspire and encourage the 100 or so guys who would show up the next morning. But after an hour or so of staring at a blank page all I could write were the words, “I didn’t sign up for this!”

Yep, that’s it. Riveting, I know! Then, I turned my light off and went to bed….at 9:30pm….either because I’m over 40 or because my body was still on Indiana time. I’m not sure.

“I didn’t sign up for this!” Not exactly words to build an entire message on, are they? But then something extraordinary happened the next morning when I woke up. I opened my eyes to a dark room. The sun hadn’t begun to make it’s ascent yet. It was 5 am. There in the darkness of my room, the words crossed my mind: “You’re not called into the perfect, you’re called into the messy.” I actually said them out loud…”You’re not called into the perfect, you’re called into the messy.” Foster care and adoption are messy, messy journeys! But, they’re beautiful. Holy cow, that’s it, I thought! I jumped out of bed and began scribbling in my notebook….

“……I didn’t sign up for this!” 

“…..this is far from perfect. This is messy. There’s a reason for this!” 

“…..if this were perfect, I wouldn’t need Jesus like I do. And I need Him desperately. I wouldn’t experience hope to the depth that I do!”

“…..there’s beauty in the mess. It’s hard to see, but it’s there.”

And then suddenly a thought crossed my mind that nearly knocked me out of my uncomfortable fake leather hotel room chair.

“…..if it weren’t for the mess, I’d never know my amazing children.” Gosh I hate this reality. I hate that tragedy had to happen in order for our family to come together. But oh how thankful I am that it did. We never want to hope for bad things to happen in this world. Never. But how many beautiful things are produced from the smoldering ashes of a broken and damaged world? Think about the forest ravaged by forest fires. Does the vegetation not come back fuller after the devastation? Beautiful things are made from jagged pieces.

No, I wasn’t called into a perfect journey. Neither were you. We were called into a very messy, broken one. We’ve been called to battle with our children, against their past, and that is really stinking hard sometimes. But the mess produces massive beauty. The brokenness brings the greatest healing.

The messiness of this world gave us our children.

Question: How are you thankful for the mess? Share with us in the comment section below You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Michelle Schumacher Damerow

    Broken this quote from your post into 2 parts. Part 1: “No, I wasn’t called into a perfect journey. Neither were you. We were called into a very messy, broken one. We’ve been called to battle with our children, against their past, and that is really stinking hard sometimes”. Part 2: “But the mess produces massive beauty. The brokenness brings the greatest healing” Part 1-we done that part of the journey. Part 2 – still awaiting & hoping for those results of this journey. As always spot on- thank you!

    • You are right on target. Thanks for sharing this! Hope and pray you find that place of healing.

  • Michelle Schumacher Damerow

    Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences ( pro & con) regarding birth family in all of this. It is the elephant in the room (obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed) that could us a lot of discussion.

    • Help me understand which elephant you are talking about. There are are many. 🙂

      • Michelle Schumacher Damerow

        The elephant I’m referring to has to do with the dynamics that come with the birth family. We would not be in this foster- adoption journey if it wasn’t for the birth family. That’s where it all started. For some, the birth family may not play a big part in all of this and for others it has a huge impact. This is not a blaming game, its about how to best navigate this journey with a birth family who may or may not be involve while the children are in your care, or after they age out / become adult children. Not an expert here – under a large learning curve, in which so far has not done so well in this area.

        • Allisonm

          I’m not sure exactly what you are asking. Several members of our children’s birth family had a big impact on their lives both before and after the children entered foster care. I am not for or against post adoption contact with birth family members. What I am definitely for is parents determining what is in their children’s best interests, both short and long term, and acting accordingly. That can change over time as we become better attuned to our children’s individual needs and as we have more experience with any birth family members who are interested in contact. For that reason, we chose not to enter any binding agreements about contact.

          In our case, that turned out to be wise. We had to begin making those decisions at the time of placement, when we had had little contact with our children, who were being placed with us for adoption. Our children, who had previously been forced to have contact with extended family members, eventually told us they wanted no contact with birth family members and why. It became plain that was in their best interests. If any of our children change their minds, we will revisit the issue and decide what actions best serve their interests. My only concern is my children. I do not feel obligated to do anything because birth family members want me to unless it is consistent with my children’s best interests as it’s my job as their mother to make their safety and well-being a priority.

          I don’t really see birth relatives as an “elephant in the room.” It’s not as though we don’t remember or acknowledge the fact that our children didn’t join our family until they were school aged and that they had lives, relationships, and experiences before we met them. We talk about them when our children want to or when it makes sense to in light of whatever is happening. We are approaching the end of our first decade as a family and some our children are nearing adulthood, which includes the opportunity to decide for themselves who they want in their lives and on what terms. That may take our children places we find challenging, but everything about our lives together has been challenging and we have learned to honor our children’s journeys and their determination to survive and carve out the lives they want for themselves.

          • Michelle Schumacher Damerow

            Allisonm,
            In no way was I asking about your own personnel experience with birth family. However, thank you for sharing your own insight and experience with this. I apologies for now being clearer. I was talking about collectively ( foster-adoption parents). Your blog often focuses on issues around the children and us the foster-adopt parents. Was hoping to see something on the “other” parents – that being the birth family Could more discussion be called for there?

            By the way, you are in- step with our views regarding the birth family. We for one had to make some necessary decision regarding birth family to ensure our children’s safety while in our care.
            I also realizes how very busy things are for you and your husband. It amazes me that you take your limited resources and put them towards helping other in this journey. Papa God’s blessings upon your household.

          • Allisonm

            I am not part of Mike and Kristin’s family, just another parent who reads their blog regularly. Readers often share here to connect with and encourage other parents. Sorry for the confusion. I was interested in understanding where you were going with your question. From other posts, I’ve gathered that Mike and Kristin have ongoing relationships with at least some of their children’s birth family members.

  • Martha Stanley

    The “mess” has caused “faith” to become more than a vocabulary word to me. God has gifted me with more faith & ability to trust Him & His timing. It’s been a growing process as I’ve learned to reach out to Him during this anxiety-producing roller coaster ride.

  • Rachel Maarhuis

    Thanks for the encouragement. It’s so hard when you’re in the middle of the “mess” to remember that God is using us and the messy brokenness for something beautiful

    • Rachel, we totally understand. You’re not alone.

  • Heather O’Guinn

    I am a full-time working single foster mommy. I didn’t plan on being a single parent let alone a foster parent. Some days I’m still a bit dazed and confused how I landed here. Fostering has absolutely been a scary mess at times, but I am grateful for the soul I get to love and care for. We are on the road to adoption and he is every bit my son. He was from the minute I laid eyes on him. He is not a back up plan or plan B. We were meant to be a family.

    • Love this Heather. I have tears in my eyes reading your story.

  • Lori Kefover

    Thank you all for the reminders of why we do this. But what makes it more difficult for us is the child is a family remember. Through the entire process we have gotten nothing but blame & hatred from one of the bio parents, who is related to me.. I am told “kinship” foster homes are becoming more & more common. But every time I look into the child’s eyes & see all the love she has in her heart & she reminds me that all her life she knows we have been there for her it also reminds me that when we were asked if we would be willing to adopt her there really was only one choice. We are both near retirement & have already raised 2 biological daughters so this has altered our retirement plans slightly, but we don’t always get to completely choose the path God has for us.

    • Oh man, you guys are amazing for pressing on and loving those kiddos.

  • Jane

    Thank you for this reminder of the beauty in the midst of the mess. I can’t imagine life with out my adopted daughter and it is all because of a mess she had to survive before coming to us. Thanking God for his plans which are far better than our own.

  • Jay Derting

    It is a mess but you see the beauty when you hear your 15 year old adopted daughter with FASD telling her 11 year old adopted brother with FASD (not biologically related) that she understands how he feels. She told him when things change to fast she gets anxious and he loses focus. Your not doing it on purpose even though some people see it that way. But don’t worry even if mom and dad are short with you sometimes, they will always help you through it and will always be there for you.
    I had a hard time seeing through the tears in my eyes and keep driving.

    • Wow! This is inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  • Zachary LaVergne

    This post is so inspiring. We are in the midst of a kinship adoption, and these last two years have been so hard. My son and daughter came from an awful situation. They both have ptsd and a host of other issues . We fight to get through every day, but we’re getting there. It’s nice to know there are other people out there going through the same struggles we are.